spanish learning

A Genius Way to Learn Spanish (It Involves Cats!)

Over the years, I’ve used many methods to boost my Spanish proficiency. I took group lessons and attended Meet-ups, here in NYC. I spent two weeks getting one-on-one tutoring at a language school in Guatemala. I went through an entire Spanish podcast series while riding the subway.В (A sporadic task that took years to complete.)

Now that it’s summer, I’m feeling the need to brush up on my Spanish again. I’m considering another Latin America trip for the fall, and I’ve barely used Spanish since my trip to Argentina.

This time, in addition to using podcasts, I’ll also try to watch Spanish TV shows—I’m a sucker for reality competitions, so I’m thinking Telemundo’s Top Chef Estrellas or La Voz Kids.

I’ve also downloaded an app that I’m admittedly addicted to. (Dog-lovers may want to stop reading now.)

It’s called “Cat Spanish.” And it’s exactly how it sounds. Photos of cats—often, really funny ones—illustrate Spanish phrases.

hablo espanol

The pictures are so ridiculous that it makes me want to keep going to the app to see what it’ll serve up next.

no me gusta

photo 3

What has helped you learn another language? Please let me know—I can use all the ayuda I can get when it comes to espanol!

(PS – I had a fantastic week at the beach. I pretty much completely unplugged—which explains my lack of posts—but I’m looking forward to sharing some pics from my trip soon!)

Final Thoughts on PLQE and Guatemala

Xela, from the roof of PLQE

Xela, from the roof of PLQE

I’m sure it’s obvious, from all my recent posts, that I had an amazing two weeks in Guatemala. I had such a wonderful time that I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to settle in and stay in Xela for another month or two.

If you’re interested in taking a Spanish-learning trip, I couldn’t recommend PLQE more. I learned more Spanish in two weeks there than in my whole life, combined. Sure, I still have a long way to go to achieve proficiency. But before I went, I only knew the present tense and the basic future (ir + a + infinitive). Now, I’ve learned the pretirite and the imperfect, and can actually talk like a real person (well, like a total Spanish newbie)—but at least I don’t have to talk about the past using the present tense! I’ve also found that I can understand much more now than three weeks ago.

And this is going to sound so cheesy, too—cue the sappy music—but the whole time I was at PLQE, I was really inspired by everyone around me: My teachers, who taught me a ton and shared stories about their own hardships. MyВ host family in Xela, who were so warm and welcoming that I felt at home there, even though it was just for one week. My host family at the Mountain School, who always gave me lots to eat, even though they didn’t have much, themselves.

And my fellow students. Like me, most were in their late 20s to late 30s and at transitional points in their lives, between degree programs or careers or relationships (or some combination of those). Each person had an interesting story of why he or she was there. But unlike me, most were staying longer—which I was very envious of!

When I first came to PLQE, I was dreading the graduation ceremony where I’d have to present—in Spanish—something to demonstrate my newfound language prowess. And though I was super-nervous, my presentation went well. I made a list, entitledВ “10 Maneras Para Saber Si Tu Eres Un Estudiante de PLQE”В (“10 Ways to Know If You’re a PLQE Student”) and comprised of inside jokes about the school. Thankfully, people laughed.

PLQE set up for the weekly graduation ceremony

PLQE set up for the weekly graduation ceremony

Everyone else’s presentations impressed me—their talents were so diverse! One woman salsa danced (really well, I might add), one guy freestyled in Spanish and English, another performed a dramatic monologue. Others told jokes, read poems or played the guitar. Admittedly, I spend so much time in my ballet/writing world, that I’m always awed and very appreciative when I see other peoples’ passions on display—especially when they’re in a language they just learned!

Carlos, PLQE's director, giving out diplomas

Carlos, PLQE’s director, giving out diplomas

I’m not a spontaneous person, but I booked this trip on a whim. I didn’t research any other schools and only did a quick Google search on Xela to make sure the city hadn’t been hit by some natural disaster before buying my ticket. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It was really one of the most rewarding trips I’ve ever taken.